Smartphone Cities: measuring 4G mobile broadband and voice performance

16 December 2016

This document outlines the results of Ofcom’s research into the performance of the retail networks of the UK’s four national mobile network operators (MNOs): EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. This is our fourth report measuring mobile broadband performance, although the results presented here are not directly comparable with those in our previous reports due to the evolution in our testing methodology. The purpose of this report is to provide consumers with comparable information on the performance of each MNO on 4G services.

In July-October 2016, we tested the 4G services of the operators in seven UK cities: Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Sheffield and Southampton. We chose these cities because they all had 4G coverage from each of the four operators.   

As consumers use their smartphones for a variety of purposes every day, this report presents results for: download speeds, web browsing times, upload speeds, YouTube streaming resolution, network response times (measured through ping tests), call quality and call success rates. As two of the most common mobile internet activities, there is a particular focus on download and web browsing performance. A wider range of performance metrics are provided in the supporting chart pack to this document.

The report presents the results of our testing by comparing the performance of mobile network operators by city, time of day, and whether the tests were carried out indoors or outdoors.

It is important to note that the results presented here are limited to a snapshot of performance in the cities visited over the period we tested and do not reflect UK-wide performance of each MNO.

This report is part of a wider programme of work by Ofcom into mobile quality of service, which includes our interactive coverage maps.

Smartphone Cities - Measuring 4G mobile broadband and voice performance PDF, 1.2 MB

Smartphone Cities - Measuring 4G mobile broadband and voice performance - Technical Annex PDF, 584.5 KB

Smartphone Cities - Measuring 4G mobile broadband and voice performance - Chart pack PDF, 488.8 KB